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Ten Manager Roles

Category Role Activity Examples

Informational Monitor Seek and acquire Scan/read trade press,


work-related periodicals, reports; attend
information seminars and
training; maintain personal
contacts

Disseminator Communicate/ Send memos and reports;


disseminate inform staffers and
information to others subordinates of decisions
within the organization

Spokesperson Communicate/transmit Pass on memos, reports and


information to informational materials;
outsiders participate in
conferences/meetings and
report progress

Interpersonal Figurehead Perform social and Greet visitors, sign legal


legal duties, act as documents, attend ribbon
symbolic leader cutting ceremonies,
host receptions, etc.

Leader Direct and motivate Includes almost all


subordinates, select interactions with subordinates
and train employees

Liaison Establish and maintain Business correspondence,


contacts within and participation in meetings with
outside the representatives
organization of other divisions or
organizations.
Decisional Entrepreneur Identify new ideas and Implement innovations; Plan
initiate improvement for the future
projects

Disturbance Deals with disputes or Settle conflicts between


Handler problems and takes subordinates; Choose
corrective action strategic alternatives;
Overcome crisis situations

Resource Decide where to apply Draft and approve of plans,


Allocator resources schedules, budgets; Set
priorities

INFORMATIONAL ROLES
Monitor, disseminator, and spokesperson are the three informational roles that a manager
may assume. These informational roles are created as a result of enacting the set of
interpersonal roles already described. A network of interpersonal contacts with both
subordinates and individuals outside the work unit serves to establish the manager as an
informational nerve center of the unit, responsible for gathering, receiving, and
transmitting information that concerns members of the work unit.

A manager assumes the monitor role by continually scanning the environment for
information or activities and events that may identify opportunities or threats to the
functioning of the work unit. Much of the manager's gathering of information is achieved
through the network of contacts that has been established through the interpersonal roles.
Hearing small talk at a banquet about a competitor's planned marketing program, learning
through casual conversation at a ball game about the negative medical evaluation of an
unsigned ball player, or daily reading of a business periodical are all examples of the
kinds of information gathering involved in the monitor role.

The information a manager gathers as a monitor must be evaluated and transmitted as


appropriate to members of the organization. The transmittal of information by a manager
activates the disseminator role. Privileged information may be disseminated to
subordinates, peers, or superiors in the organization. The manager may inform the
marketing vice-president about the specific marketing strategy a competitor is planning to
implement. A baseball manager may inform the team owner that an impending trade
should be canceled because of the unfavorable medical report on one of the players. Or
reading The Wall Street Journal may inform the manager that a shipping strike is looming
and thus enable her to inform subordinates that temporary layoffs may occur next month.

Occasionally, a manager must assume the spokesperson role by speaking on behalf of the
work unit to people inside or outside the organization. This might involve lobbying for
critical resources or appealing to individuals who have influence on activities that affect
the work unit. A top manager asking the board of directors to keep the work unit together
during a reorganization period or a corporate president speaking to a college audience on
the role the company plays in education would both constitute engaging in the
spokesperson role.

INTERPERSONAL ROLES
Three of the manager's roles come into play when the manager must engage in
interpersonal relationships. The three roles of figurehead, leader, and liaison are each
necessary under differing circumstances. Adopting one or another of the three
interpersonal roles is made easier by the formal authority the manager obtains from the
organization.

The figurehead role is enacted when activity of a ceremonial nature is required within the
organization. A baseball manager attending a minor league all-star game, the head chef of
a prominent restaurant greeting customers at the door, and the president of a bank
congratulating a new group of trainees are all examples of the figurehead role. While the
figurehead role is routine, with little serious communication and no important decision
making, its importance should not be overlooked. At the interpersonal level, it provides
members and non-members alike with a sense of what the organization is about and the
type of people the organization recruits.

The second interpersonal role, the leader role, involves the coordination and control of
the work of the manager's subordinates. The leader role may be exercised in a direct or an
indirect manner. Hiring, training, and motivating may all require direct contact with
subordinates. However, establishing expectations regarding work quality, decision-
making responsibility, or time commitments to the job are all outcomes of the leader role
that are indirectly related to subordinates.

Quite often, managers are required to obtain information or resources outside their
authority. The liaison role is enacted when managers make contact with other individuals,
who may or may not reside in the organization, in order to complete the work performed
by their departments or work units. An auto assembly plant supervisor may telephone a
tire supplier to determine the amount of inventory available for next week; a prosecuting
attorney may meet with the presiding judge and defense attorney to discuss the use of
motions and evidence in a libel trial; or a college professor may meet with professors in a
separate department on campus to obtain information on a prospective doctoral student.
Ultimately, the liaison role enables a manager to develop a network for obtaining external
information, which can be useful for completing current and future work activities.

DECISIONAL ROLES
Both interpersonal and informational roles are really preludes to what are often
considered to be a manager's most important set of roles: the decisional roles of
entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator.

The entrepreneur role comes into action when the manager seeks to improve the work
unit. This can be accomplished by adapting new techniques to fit a particular situation or
modifying old techniques to improve individual or group activity. Managers usually learn
of new or innovative methods through information gathered in the monitor role. As a
result, a supervisor purchases a new kiln which will shorten the drying process for
ceramic tiles; a director of a youth club trains staff in the use of personal computers to
increase file access; or a president establishes a new pension plan to improve employee
morale.
Whereas the entrepreneur role establishes the manager as the initiator of change, the
disturbance handler role establishes the manager as a responder to change. Organizations,
unfortunately, do not run so smoothly that managers are never called upon to respond to
unwelcome pressures. In these cases, the manager is required to act quickly to bring
stability back to the organization. A law partner must settle a disagreement among
associates in the firm on who will present a case before a judge; a personnel director must
negotiate with striking employees dissatisfied with the procedures for laying off
employees; or a cannery first-line manager must respond to a sudden shortage of cans
used to package perishable fruit because the supplier has reneged on a contract.

When a manager is placed in the position of having to decide to whom and in what
quantity resources will be dispensed, the resource allocator role is assumed. Resources
may include money, time, power, equipment, or people. During periods of resource
abundance, this role can be easily performed by a manager. In most cases, however,
organizations operate under conditions of resource scarcity; thus, decisions on the
allocation of resources can be critical for the success of the work unit, division, or
organization. As a decision maker, the manager must strive not only to appropriately
match resources with subordinates but also to ensure that the distribution of resources is
coordinated to effectively complete the task to be performed. An office manager must
provide secretaries with appropriate equipment to generate and duplicate documents. A
manager of a fast-food restaurant must coordinate work shifts to have the maximum
number of employees working during the lunch hour. Corporate presidents may provide
their administrative assistants with decision-making responsibility for day-to-day matters.

In addition to decisions concerning organizational changes, disturbances, and resources,


the manager must enact a negotiator role. The process of negotiation is possible only
when an individual has the authority to commit organizational resources. Hence, as
managers move up the managerial hierarchy and obtain control over more resources, they
become more involved in the negotiator role. For example, the president of a record
company may be called in to discuss terms of a possible contract with a major rock
group; a production manager must negotiate with the personnel department to obtain
employees with specialized skills; or a college dean must negotiate with department
heads over course offerings and the number of faculty to be hired.

The relative emphasis a manager places on these ten roles is highly dependent on the
manager's authority and status in the organization. Length of time on the job, position in
the management hierarchy, goals of the subunit to be achieved, and skills the manager
possesses all play a part in determining which roles are more prominent than others at
any given time. For instance, a marketing manager is more likely to emphasize the
interpersonal roles because of the importance of personal contact in the marketing
process. A financial manager, charged with responsibility for the economic efficiency of
the organization, will probably focus on the decisional roles. A staff manager, or a
manager who performs in an advisory capacity, is likely to be more heavily involved in
the informational roles. Regardless of the differences that may occur, however, all
managers enact interpersonal, informational, and decisional roles while performing their
tasks.

Effectively managing an organization is a demanding task. Managers not only must


develop skills related to the functional areas of management but also must learn how to
integrate these activities. What makes this process demanding is that events and activities
external and internal to an organization can radically change the techniques and methods
managers must use in order to arrive at successful outcomes. Managers cannot afford to
be limited in their view of management, nor can they simply rely on how things were
done in the past.
Even the most seasoned and successful managers are prone to mistakes. However, a more
complete knowledge of the managerial process can reduce the chances of mistakes that
will have dire consequences for an organization. Such knowledge may help managers to
better plan, organize and staff, direct, and control organization activities within the
context of their organization.